Clipper South Australian c. 1870
NameSouth Australian
OwnerDevit & Moore - Adelaide Line
BuilderWilliam Pile
Out of service13 February 1889
General characteristics
Tons burthen1,230 b.o.m.
Length201 or 220 feet (61 or 67 m)
Beam36 feet (11 m)
Depth20 feet (6.1 m)
Sail planFull-rigged ship

South Australian was a clipper ship that voyaged annually between London to South Australia for about 20 years. She was a successor to clippers St. Vincent and City of Adelaide (1864)


The clipper South Australian was built at North Sands, Sunderland, in 1868 by William Pile for Devitt & Moore's "Adelaide Line" of packets, underwritten by a consortium of investors.[1][2] She was a composite-hull clipper of 1,230 tons (O.M.); 1,040 tons register, length 201 or 220 feet (61 or 67 m), breadth 36 feet (11 m) and depth 20 feet (6.1 m). Captain Bruce supervised the construction and she was "christened" by a daughter of Henry Martin, a South Australian part-owner.[3]

She was commanded by Captain David Bruce 1868–1872, then alternately by his sons, John Bruce 1872–1874 and 1877–1880; Alexander Bruce 1876–1877; and John Howard Barrett 1882–1883 and 1885–1886. Barrett had been master of Outalpa and St. Vincent and later of Hesperus and Illawarra.[4]

Her last days

South Australian was sold to William J. Woodside of Belfast in 1887, and carried cargo to India and New Brunswick under the command of Captain James Arthurs.

On 13 February 1889 while on a passage from Cardiff to Rosario, Argentina loaded with railway track and fishplates, she ran into a gale off Lundy Island and the captain decided to run before the wind. As the ship rolled in the tremendous seas the cargo began moving about in the hold as a solid mass and in the early hours of the 14th broke through the hull. As the ship began to sink a lifeboat was deployed under difficult conditions and all but one of the crew was saved, being picked up by the schooner Spray and carried to Swansea by the steam trawler Flying Scotchman after drifting for twelve hours.[5] The cargo of iron was discovered in 1986 at a depth of 42 metres (140 ft) in the Bristol Channel by members of the Ilfracombe & North Devon Sub-Aqua Club.[6]

In 2015 a geophysical mapping survey was carried out by Wessex Archaeology on behalf of Ilfracombe & North Devon Sub-Aqua Club.[7]

Some other clipper ships on the England to Adelaide service


  1. ^ "Some famous Clipper Ships of Olden Days". The Observer. LXXVIII (5, 841). South Australia. 1 January 1921. p. 26. Retrieved 5 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ Fraser, A.D. (1938). THIS CENTURY OF OURS - Being an Account of the Origin and History during One Hundred Years of the House of Dangar, Gedye and Malloch Ltd, of Sydney. Sydney: Hallstead Press Pty Limited. p. 96.
  3. ^ "Miscellaneous Shipping". The South Australian Advertiser. X (2964). South Australia. 15 April 1868. p. 2. Retrieved 12 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "Personal". Evening Journal (Adelaide). XXXII (9072). South Australia. 8 January 1900. p. 2. Retrieved 13 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Loss of the South Australian". South Australian Register. LIV (13, 218). South Australia. 26 March 1889. p. 4. Retrieved 13 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "The South Australian: The wreck of a historic sailing ship".
  7. ^ "South Australian Geophysical Mapping Project".